Archive for August, 2010

Gautam Khamaru didn’t know that he could draw till he was six years old, a student of Class I.

A teacher at his village school at Chakpara, near Santiniketan, once asked Gautam and his classmates to “sketch something on the slate”. Gautam drew a horse.

The teacher was so impressed with the sketch that he showed it to the whole school. “That was probably one of the defining moments in my life when I felt I could pursue art,” says the 38-year-old artist.

Coming from a family of farmers, art college was a distant dream for Gautam. “My maternal uncle used to paint, and my mother made exquisite handicrafts from dried palm leaves. I was inspired by both,” says Gautam.

As a child, he was also fascinated by the Durga idol-makers at his village. “I always wanted to touch their clay but they would never let me,” he recalls with a smile.

He would draw and paint using colours made from natural materials, such as shiuli flowers, sheem leaves, turmeric, khorimaati (chalk clay) and pebblestones.

The subjects were his surroundings: sowing of seeds and harvesting of crop, fisherwomen hauling a catch in a pond, farm animals (especially cows and buffaloes) in their sheds.

Gautam was hand-picked for the Art Mela at CIMA Gallery earlier this year and was then featured in the trio exhibition The Other Vision at Studio21, along with Anup Mondal and Sambaran Das.

Gautam’s Animal Series in mixed media, tempera and acrylic showcased his characteristic ornate style where the familial turns into the magical; his depiction of farm animals transcending from the realistic to figurative abstracts that speak in a resonant, vibrant tonal palette.

From chalk and slate, Gautam graduated to paper and actual watercolours only in Class IX. “My father gifted me a set of watercolours. I held on to them for dear life, using them sparingly,” recalls Gautam.

Of course, the only genre of painting he did at that point was of the realist school. After his Higher Secondary examinations, Gautam took admission in the BCom course but spent “the entire three years in college painting and honing my skills”.

The hard work paid off with Gautam gaining an entry into Kala Bhaban at Visva-Bharati in 1992. “No one in my family ever thought of art as a full-time profession, so my passing the entrance examination at Kala Bhaban was in itself an achievement. I was whole-heartedly supported by my family,” he says.

At Santiniketan, he was trained by artists/teachers Jogen Chowdhury, Lalu Prasad Shaw, Suhas Roy and Nandadulal Mukherjee. “Nandababu taught tempera. I learnt the nuances of the medium from him,” says Gautam. He specialised in painting and sculpture; the latter primarily in plaster of Paris.

Formal training in place, Gautam’s own visual language didn’t really evolve post his Kala Bhaban days. Keeping paper and canvas aside, he started throwing cloth soaked in dung-mixed water on a whitewashed wall at home.

“It was just a spur-of-the-moment thing that I started and it worked. I found images that resembled everything from animals to the shamiana of a crowded jatra in progress,” says Gautam.

The fluidity of the dung-water offered mutating images, which shaped Gautam’s individual language in more ways than one. “That wall became the blueprint of many of my works,” he smiles.

Often, the throwing would offer him aerial views of everyday rural scenes — fisherwomen hauling a catch, cattle at their dawn meal or stamping on rice or wheat grains to separate the bran. There’s a muted sense of humour in place in the depiction of this everyday reality.

Today, the reticent Gautam has arrived with his unique visual language, his animalscapes — for the lack of a better term — marked by an aspect of fantasy and a fluidity and displacement of form.

The tonal burst is an integral aspect of Gautam’s art. “Even when I sketched as a child, I didn’t sketch in monochrome — I would colour the scenes of Sahaj Paath drawn by Nandalal Bose with natural pigments,” says Gautam.

The luminescence of colours in his tempera, acrylic and mixed-media works perhaps arises from this childhood practice of using natural pigments.

Then there is the displacement of form, something that characterises his present style of painting animals that appear magical.

A conscious decision to be different? “I have never actually thought about the process of breaking form. Anything that I see — a bulb, for example — translates into the shining eyes of an animal. It is something that has come from within. I cannot change it forcefully, nor predict which course it will take in the coming years.”

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No kid stuff

   Posted by: admin    in Art News Updates

Farhatullah Beig’s photographs peek into childhood in India’s hinterland.

Each frame is a story. Of their innocence and promise, of their deprivation and the obvious disparity, of poverty and everyday suffering, theirs and their parents. Above all, Farhatullah Beig’s photographs — 60 frames in total — titled, “Child Profiles — Stories from the Interiors” are grains of truth lived in remote India, triggered by our flawed policies.

To drive home the point, the snapshots by the Hyderabad-based Beig — displayed at the India International Centre Annexe, New Delhi till early this week — zoom in on children and teenaged youth from diverse backgrounds in four districts of Andhra Pradesh. The result is a documentation of a range of experiences being lived by scores of young citizens of the country today, some full of innocent smiles, some definitely not.

Beig, an alumnus of MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia, has divided the exhibition into different parts. While one focuses on school goers, one is on child labour. There is also a section illustrating the everyday hardships of parents and how their children are a part of their work life as benefits like day-care centres as stipulated in the National Plan for Action for Children 2005, and National Policy for Children, 1994, are yet to reach them. A string of photographs also highlights the extra burden of a girl child in a poor household playing the role of a mother to her younger siblings.

Shot last November in 20 days, Beig’s snaps are telling. Sample this: A frame freezes children greedily having a mouthful at a school under the Government’s midday meal scheme with a photograph of Pandit Nehru painted on the wall in the backdrop. Its caption points out Nehru dreamt of a country with healthy children, while the midday meal is the only source of some nutrition to them. Then there are shots which focus on the lack of information among common people regarding child labour laws and also how misuse of power has forced many parents in these areas to avoid teaching their traditional crafts to their children.

Beig’s endeavour, part of a project of Oxford University, U.K., will soon travel to Hyderabad, Mumbai and Chennai.

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